*Disclaimer: This post is part of a content series sponsored by Camping World. All opinions are our own.
We’ve done our fair share of RVing – from full-time on the road for over two years, to taking extended trips throughout the year, to weekend camping. Regardless of how you use your RV, you don’t want to make some of the mistakes we did as newbie RVers.
We’ve put together this list because they are things we did wrong and often see other RVers doing wrong. More importantly, we’ve provided you with how to do these things the right way, because if you don’t know better, you can’t do better.
WRONG: Forgetting things on travel days.
Spend any amount of time in an RV park or campground and you’ll notice a trend: RVers seem to always wait until the last minute to pack up on travel days. They’ll likely be rushing to make that 11:00 or 12:00 check out time and stressed as the camp hosts pull up and put the pressure on them.
In these situations, it’s easy to make careless mistakes that can cause serious harm to your RV and even put yourself at risk of getting in an accident. Things like forgetting to put your awning in and close vents and exterior compartments can be dangerous not only to you but to others on the road with you.
RIGHT: Use a checklist.
You may think you don’t need a checklist, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Travel days tend to be stressful with all the planning that’s involved and various factors like traffic and weather than can interfere with those plans. Under stress, it’s easy to overlook things or forget steps you need to take before hitting the road.
Having a list of all the tasks you need to do inside and outside of the RV can be a life saver. Good Sam has a very comprehensive pre-departure checklist that you can digitally check off so you can easily pull it up on your phone as you go through each item.
While it’s certainly challenging to know exactly what you need to pack in your RV, the general rule of thumb is that you won’t need as much as you think you do. Overpacking will only make your space feel smaller and less comfortable.
Before you even start loading your RV, invest in some good storage solutions. There are tons of great products out there that help you maximize your space and keep your RV organized. If you have a plan for where your items will go, you’ll be less likely to overpack. Remember, just because you have space, doesn’t mean you have to fill it.
You’ll also want to purge items every now and then, especially as you get a better feel for the things you use and don’t use. We used to have a rule: if we brought in a new item to our RV, we needed to remove an item.
WRONG: Overpaying for campsites.
Campgrounds and RV parks have been consistently raising their prices the past several year as RVing has become increasingly popular. We’ve seen sites cost as much as $100 per night. Every RVer should know and utilize the ways you can save money on RV sites because the more you save on accommodations, the more you can put towards adventuring and doing the things you love, right?
RIGHT: Join memberships!
There are several RV memberships that offer free and/or discounted RV stays. A few of our favorites are:
- Good Sam: Save 10% on 2,000+ parks and campgrounds all across the country. You can also get fuel savings and retail discounts with your membership.
- Passport America: “The Original 50% Discount Camping Club”, offers discounts at over 1200+ campgrounds in the U.S.
- Harvest Hosts: A network of farms, wineries, museums, golf courses, breweries, etc. that allow RVers to park on their property for free in exchange for supporting their business.
- Boondocker’s Welcome: Free short stays on other RVers’ properties
- Thousand Trails: Purchase a camping pass (starting at around $630/year) and pay no nightly fees at their 190+ RV parks and resorts.
- Escapees RV Club: 800 commercial RV parks that offer a 15 to 50 percent discount
You can also save money on RV sites by staying longer and utilizing some parks’ discounted weekly or monthly rate over their nightly rate. Or you may consider work camping, where you work at campgrounds and parks in exchange for a free site.
WRONG: Not protecting your RV’s electrical system.
Most people new to RVing don’t think about the potential dangers of the power supply at the RV park or campground. They simply park and plug right in, not even aware of the risk they’re taking. Power issues at RV parks and campgrounds are a real and valid threat.
Plugging into a dangerous power source can fry your RV’s electrical system and also possibly damage any electronics that are plugged in. Luckily there is a gadget out there to avoid such a headache.
RIGHT: Use a surge protector!
A surge protector protects your RV from drops or surges in voltage caused by short circuits or lightning, for example. In the event of a drop or surge, the surge protector will sacrifice itself in order to protect your RV. You can read more about the types of surge protectors and the three that we recommend in this post: How to Protect Your RV’s Electrical System.
WRONG: Not sleeping well.
It’s no secret that RV beds aren’t quite as comfortable as traditional beds. They tend to be in tight spots and come with mattresses that aren’t exactly top of the line or even come in odd dimensions. But, getting a good night’s sleep is important so that you wake up energized for the adventures you’ll go on in your RV.
You can easily upgrade your RV’s mattress and many people choose to do so. You can even find Sleep Number mattresses for RVs. Another option is just to get a good memory foam mattress pad to improve your comfort. Either way, it’s worth the investment to ensure you are well rested for your travels.
As a side note, we’d highly recommend looking into Beddy’s, the perfect bedding for RVs. Think of it like a sleeping bag for your mattress. The whole bedding goes on like a fitting sheet and simply zips together. It’s the perfect solution for those hard to make RV beds that are up against walls or in corners. Plus, Beddy’s is super comfortable and has made a big difference in our sleep while in our RV. Be sure to read our Beddy’s review and see how it works!
WRONG: Not taking photos.
There is definitely something to be said about being present and enjoying the moment. It’s easy to forget to take photos when you’re adventuring. Or sometimes you only take photos of the scenery, but none with you actually in them. Then you get home with photos that are no different than postcards – anyone could have taken that photo. The special photos are candid shots where you capture an emotion that can take you back to the feelings you had in those moments.
RIGHT: Document your travels!
It’s not always convenient to stop and take a photo when you’re traveling. In fact, if you have kids it can feel like pulling teeth to get a family photo at times. We often moan and groan as we pull out our tripod to capture the moment, but then later when we get home we are always so glad we did. Unfortunately, memories fade and photos end up being the only thing you have left from a trip.
You don’t want to overdo it, though, which we’ve been guilty of before as well. You can get carried away taking photos of every single thing that happens on a hike that you aren’t fully experiencing it. Besides, who needs that many photos? Chances are you’ll only like a couple anyway. Be sure to find a balance!
WRONG: Not taking personal safety precautions.
There’s nothing that will ruin an RV trip more than something bad happening that you could have avoided with necessary precautions. While we’ve never had a major issue on the road in our several years of RVing, we feel strongly that’s because we’ve always been very cautious and prepared.
RIGHT: Protect yourself, your family, and your belongings.
There are several things you can do to ensure your protection and safety while traveling in your RV. First, we always recommend that RVers share their itineraries with loved ones back home. Additionally, share your exact location as you travel, which can be as easy as using the “share your location” feature on an iPhone or dropping a pin in your Google maps app and texting it to someone.
Sharing your location on social media, however, is NOT a good idea while you’re on the road. That’s basically alerting people that your home is vacant and can open yourself up to a break in!
When it comes to your personal belongings, always always always lock them up or don’t leave anything outside unattended. It’s never worth the risk no matter how long you leave it out or how safe you feel at a campground or RV park.
As for your family, have a plan in place for sticking together when you arrive at a new attraction if you have young children. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the scenery, taking photos, and navigating crowds that you lose track of someone in your group.
Traveling with pets? Don’t forget about their safety as well. There are lots of tips for traveling with dogs, but one the biggest safety tip is to purchase a temperature monitor for when you leave them unattended in your RV. You can monitor the temperature from your phone and ensure that it never reaches a dangerous level for them.
WRONG: Using Google maps for directions.
Google maps is handy because it’s right on your phone, but can be extremely dangerous to follow in an RV. Google has no idea you’re in an RV and will simply give you the fastest route but not necessarily the safest route.
RIGHT: Use an RV specific GPS.
There are navigation systems made specifically for RVs and many newer motorhomes come with them already installed in the dash. Such units will only guide you on roads that are suitable for large vehicles, meaning they will avoid low clearances, steep grades, narrow or windy roads, etc. Many RV GPS systems also have features like live traffic and weather updates, so you can plan accordingly and ensure safe travels.
Not to mention, Google maps doesn’t allow you to factor in roadside attractions or points of interest along your route. Other travel planners like RV Trip Wizard will make sure that you get the most out of your trip by suggesting things to do in the vicinity.
WRONG: Winging it.
Spontaneity is absolutely one of the best parts of RVing. The open road is freeing! Unfortunately though, you can’t be completely willy nilly. RVing has become increasingly popular the past few years and many parks and campgrounds are booking up way in advance, especially during prime RVing season (late spring to late fall). Gone are the days (for most places) of just rolling into a new destination, pulling up to an RV park or campground and getting a site.
RIGHT: Make reservations!
When it comes to RV travel planning, it’s best to plan ahead as much as you can. During high season in the most popular RV destinations, like national parks or Florida state parks in the wintertime, it’s not uncommon to have to book your stay 9 months to a year in advance!
While having to be scheduled can crush the free spirit in you at times, it also takes out some of the stress of not knowing where you’re going to stay each night. That way, you can focus all your attention on enjoying the journey. It’s also possible to still build in a little flexibility to your itinerary to allow for those unexpected and fun detours. Check out our 4 step process for RV route planning to get more tips.
We hope this post helps you avoid some costly mistakes or headaches along your RV travels. Even more so, we hope you have the tips to be prepared so that you can fully experience all the benefits that RVing has to offer! Here’s to happy camping.